Sustainably sustainable

Each year, most universities have some kind of environmental awareness campaign. UTM is no different.


In March, the UTM Environmental Alliance is holding Green DAZE, a month of environmental events to encourage the entire campus to get environmentally active.

The UTM Environmental Alliance is a hub intended to connect all the environmental organizations on campus. It includes the Green Team, a group of environment-conscious students who volunteer at or are employed by the UTM Environmental Affairs Office.


The other organizations that are part of the Environmental Alliance are SAGE, BikeShare, the Ministry of Environment, Urban Agriculture Society, Residence Green Team, Cycling Club, and Campus Roots. The Alliance was established in 2010 by Rohit Mehta with the aim of uniting the eight major groups working on environmental campaigns across campus by providing a forum for collaboration.

Brad Allen, UTMU’s sustainibility coordinator and a member of the Green Team, says Green DAZE is a way to get more students involved in environmental campaigns than have been so far.


“Kind of drawing attention to the fact that some of these issues are serious, and to only designate such a short period of time, we thought: why not dedicate a whole month?” explained Allen. “It would give us room, we wouldn’t be competing for times for events, and it allowed more exposure for some of the issues that these events were talking about.”


This past summer, Allen took on a research position with the Green Team. One of his projects was to connect universities across Canada by video-conference so that students from different universities could listen to a speech made at a host university and then have a short question-and-answer period.


“I thought it was pretty hypocritical of us to have a speaker travel by plane and to spend such a carbon footprint to talk to students about environmental responsibility. It’s not really, in a sense, their fault. […] With the new buildings being constructed and new technologies, video-conferencing became a viable option, where we could watch a speaker—say, David Suzuki—where we wouldn’t have to go anywhere and we would still have the benefits of seeing him.”


A number of different schools were interested. However, almost every school eventually had to drop out. One school’s speaker did not want to be recorded, while another school lost funding and consequently lost their speaker altogether. It came down to UTM and UBC.


UTM’s speaker is Bob Willard, who is talking about the business case for sustainability, and describing an effective approach for companies and organizations to become more sustainable.


“I think, especially with our generation, the environmental movement is pretty big. And allowing students a new perspective of language and dialogue to communicate with companies and organizations of how it will actually benefit them to make changes in terms of sustainability—it might be along the lines of what they may be looking for in their future career,” said Allen.


Though the Alliance is going to pay Willard to have the talk at UTM, when Allen first proposed the idea of using video-conferencing to Willard, the latter was so impressed that he was willing to do the talk for free.


“I thought that was so awesome,” said Allen. “That’s the type of incentive and motivation that I think is lacking in the environmental movement. To say that what I have to say is so important we need to fix the environment, and then charge an absorbent amount of money, is kind of counterintuitive to the message. It’s like, what’s more important here?”


“There’s so much biodiversity and ecological importance on their ecosystems, and if those fail, it’s not, like, just that our economies and our way of life is going to suffer. All of life is connected to the workings of the ocean,” Allen added. “If that  system fails, all systems fail.”


So, are we getting closer to a point where people are more environmentally friendly?


“I think that as fragile as the economy is, and as fragile as the environmental  ecosystems are, we’re going to get to be point where there’s going to be more jobs in the economy for environmentally minded individuals and organizations, and there’s going to be real pressures in the environment—where there’s going to be real consequences in people’s faces,” said  Allen. “Most people’s ideas on it are, ‘I’m not  going to do anything about it until it knocks on my door.’ That’s unfortunate, and by that point it might be too late  and beyond restoration. But I think we’re getting closer and closer to that point.”

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